Los Angeles’s Art Scene Has Taken Care of Its Own during the Pandemic

Emilee Geist

At LACE, Amitis Motevalli’s piece An Offering of Honor collapses pandemic time and geography. Motevalli’s performance was recorded in the gallery’s currently shuttered storefront and is a ritual act that challenges femicide and Iranian and American hostility in the time of COVID-19. Created of the moment and experienced first live, […]

At LACE, Amitis Motevalli’s piece An Offering of Honor collapses pandemic time and geography. Motevalli’s performance was recorded in the gallery’s currently shuttered storefront and is a ritual act that challenges femicide and Iranian and American hostility in the time of COVID-19. Created of the moment and experienced first live, then as a recorded piece, Russin said she sees An Offering of Honor as a dynamic model for “not just taking an art project and shoehorning it into something for online, but rather taking seriously [art] made directly for this time.”

For its own distinctive online programming, the Underground Museum—the space founded by the late artist —created Noah’s Bookshelf (@theundergroundbookstore), an Instagram account dedicated to its bookstore. “We wanted to bring the bookstore online because the store itself is a place for gathering, for readership,” said Megan Steinman, the Underground Museum’s director. “Noah was a collector and bibliophile, and the team at Underground [consists of] all book lovers. The bookstore is really the energetic center of the museum.”

Run by the museum’s team of docents—including Veronica Ratliff, Maliyah Puerto, Brandon Malone, and Zuri Adia—Noah’s Bookshelf circulates as a discursive space on Black feminist praxis, the Black radical tradition, the African diaspora, and, of course, art. As Steinmann noted, “We had the docents take over the Instagram feed because, depending on who was [at the museum], those are the conversations you would be having with that particular person. That group of voices is how we remain a public space, a public museum.”

Back at Hauser & Wirth, the strangeness of the empty complex quickly gave way to awe at the colossal paintings in the exhibition “Expanding the Image.” As my family and I walked through Clark’s show, it was incredible to be the few in a space so enormous, with an artist’s work that I had only ever viewed over the heads and around the shoulders of other folks. If this is how we see art now, in Los Angeles at least, perhaps there is something to pandemic time, a slowing and opening that can mediate new senses of being.

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